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Care Home Training Programme Aims to Reduce Antipsychotic Prescriptions

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Thousands of people with dementia could be protected from being inappropriately prescribed dangerous antipsychotic drugs thanks to a new care home training programme delivered by the University of Worcester.

The University has been commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society to deliver the Focussed Intervention Training and Support (FITS) programme. An initial trial found the programme reduced the use of antipsychotics in care homes by 50 per cent. These drugs which are inappropriately prescribed to 144,000 people with dementia double the risk of death, treble the risk of stroke and can leave people unable to walk or talk.

Staff in care homes across the country will receive training from the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies to become ‘dementia champions’.

Professor Dawn Brooker, Head of the Association for Dementia Studies, at the University of Worcester, said: “We are delighted to be taking this important work forwards. Providing alternatives to sedating drugs so that people living with dementia can have a decent quality of life is a top priority for us. We have the research evidence to prove that person centred care really works. Now we have to find practical ways of putting this into mainstream care for all. This research will enable us to see whether this model works in practice.”

This innovative new Alzheimer’s Society programme, supported by £100,000 investment each from the Department of Health and HC-One care home group, is set to benefit more than 5,000 people with dementia as it is rolled out to 150 care homes across the UK. This includes 100 homes from the HC-One care home group, which took over a third of the homes from Southern Cross when it went bankrupt. With two thirds of people in care homes having dementia, it is estimated that this programme could also benefit many thousand more future residents.

Professor Clive Ballard, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Finding a way to end the unacceptable levels of inappropriate antipsychotic prescriptions to people with dementia is an urgent priority we all have to address. If we don’t, many thousand more people will have their health and quality of life put at risk.

“FITS has the potential to have a huge impact. By empowering staff with the knowledge they need to understand dementia and the person behind the condition it will help them to provide good quality, individually tailored care. Only then can we ensure that antipsychotics are a last resort and that people with dementia are supported to live their life with dignity and respect.”

The intensive 10-day training programme will increase understanding and awareness of dementia and provide tools, ideas and resources to enable staff to provide good quality person-centred care. This will include simple things like using residents’ life stories to enable staff to provide care that incorporates past hobbies into life in the care homes. The dementia champions will then be responsible for passing this training on to other staff working within the homes. It is expected that the first homes will start implementing the training in October.

The initial Alzheimer’s Society trial of the FITS programme, led by Professor Rob Howard of King’s College London was carried out in 2003-2004. It involved 349 people with dementia with behavioural symptoms in 12 nursing homes. After 12 months, the number of people on antipsychotics in the intervention homes was considerably lower (23 per cent) compared to the control homes (42.1 per cent). There were also found to be no significant differences in the levels of agitated or disruptive behaviour.